I’m not going to start off this new year with something that’s freshly released just for the sake of getting something up here that’s as yet untouched and unspoiled by the critic sages of the internet. A new year needs something cathartic that wakes you up, splashes a bucket of water on your face and runs away laughing. “A Flower In A Glove” was released nine years ago this coming April and in that span of time, my fervent adoration of this now, sadly, defunct project and it’s fearless leader, Carey Mercer, has only deepened. As I am writing this, time is already eking away quickly towards the start of the second day of 2019 and all the fancy thoughts and words that spent the entire day swarming in my head thinking about this song have pulled up stakes and abandoned me. This song is the beginning of my year. This song is my anthem for the next 365 days. This song should wreck you every time you allow it to pass through your ears.
The words should arrive like fire when you decide to let them out. They should hurt as they spill out and leave you with a combined sense of ecstasy and dread. Just spit them all out onto the page or the screen and don’t look back. Leave them there for a sense of posterity. Don’t look backwards and self-edit. Don’t erase your history. I’ve had zero chances in the past week to sit and do anything that didn’t involve corralling a family horde that all wanted to travel in different directions. I’ve taken in three thousand different senses and wanted to shout twice as many thoughts, but I sadly remained silent and broke my own promise to write, write, write no matter what.
I returned to the somewhat more normal world early this morning and discovered a record entitled K7 that was released in France back on Valentine’s Day in 2017. After hearing the opening track, I promptly absorbed the entire record seven times over the course of the day. The three women that make up Tôle Froide create songs that absolutely fucking bask in their own anxious impatience and urgency. It’s true, these are not meticulously well-crafted recordings, but the music owes everything to that “get it on the fucking tape and get it into people’s ears” attitude. This is music that doesn’t just breathe, it seethes. I hate myself a little for not having this record by my side through all of 2017, but now that it’s here, it will accompany me through life permanently.
For some unknown reason, I am inherently skeptical of cover songs, especially when they involve a personal hero of mine. Maybe this stems from the handful of times that I’ve heard people cover music that I’ve written and felt like running from the room screaming or maybe there’s some deep-seated emotional issue inside of me that’s tangled up in the belief that the soul of a piece of music can only exist with it’s originator(s). Probably both of those scenarios are true and both are also probably completely untrue. Whatever the case may be, I wandered into DM Stith’s reimagining of Jason Molina’s “Get Out Get Out Get Out” with trepidation and left my first listen of it with a feeling of warmth and ecstatic graciousness at his absolutely beautiful rendition. It’s a more than fitting ode to the man behind the song and a gorgeous tribute to DM Stith’s own late grandfather whose trumpet fills the glorious cracks and spaces of the song.
A minute and a half into the over the top and yet somehow brilliantly understated video for Malibu Ken’s “Corn Maze”, the cartoon heroine turns to the camera mid-chase to pointedly ask: “Why am I still running?” On it’s own, this second track from this new collaboration between Aesop Rock and TOBACCO is straight up golden, but paired with the visuals that Rob Shaw has created, it transforms into a miniature opera that wrestles with something far deeper and less easy to explain.
We eventually escaped from a day that felt like we fell inside of a shard of infinity. When we finally burst out the other side, we were exhausted, wiped out, used, spent, pushed away, cast off into the boring December rainfall. And now for the remainder of this evening, I’ve been unable to think of anything but an extremely specific line uttered by Joan Cusack in that ridiculously quintessential 80s movie Say Anything:
When you are engaged in conversation with a person that feels like they checked out years before they even stumbled upon you, like they abandoned any posture in which they are able to feign interest in anything but themselves, it feels like you are speaking to a husk of a human that exists only to consume every speck of air in the room in service of inflating their ego. These conversations and these humans lack nutrients. They are void of any vitamins. They provide you with zero caloric intake. There’s no food in your food.
Tomorrow will be better.
Mornings arrive with a long drawl of a faint buzz that’s stretches for miles before an auspicious click in the head jumpstarts the hours you choose to remain awake. The entire day can feel like its spent very carefully rotating an old manual radio dial in hopes of tuning in to the proper frequency that keeps you aware of your surroundings and able to participate actively in whatever confronts you. These old knobs gather microscopic bits of dust inside hidden cracks crevices that work their dirty magic into every scrap of sound that releases from the pulsing speaker. Even when you think you are tuned in, you never truly are. You’re always one step away from the light.
I’ve got a thrumming pattern in my head that matches up to the underlying pulse of Hovvdy’s “Thru”. It’s been keeping me awake since just after 3am as I sift through the types of thoughts that are best left to wander around the house on their own at night rather than disturb the only time rest is humanly possible. I’ve got a frustrating idea of how I want to attack my deep dive back into making music. Frustrating because every day proves to me what a finite resource time is and whatever plan is constantly shaking the limbs in my head involves more time and more space than I’ve ever allowed myself.
I started reading Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister The Serial Killer this evening and after a handful of chapters, I’m riveted by this incredible woman’s prose. I can’t wait to get back to this one when that old bastard time allows it.
I’m witness to a never-ending barrage of narcissistic missives that are sent from sedentary couches demanding immediate answers and decisive action, so when I hear Emma Proulx of Men I Trust whisper, “waiting for the world to bend around you,” it grabs me by the neck and shakes me around violently before letting me settle back in to the remainder of the easy, wobbly groove that drives “Say, Can You Hear”. This is an upsetting, but absolutely necessary reaction to a song that musically seems built to cater to the most chill moments of your day. There is a demon hidden in these lyrics that will pounce on you.
Oncle Jazz will be self-released on February 15, 2019 // Video directed by: Men I Trust
I spent about an hour of my evening seething with quiet rage over an opinion article written for the free local rag that gets delivered to our door without fail every week, whether we want it or not. I happened to glance at the paper while we were having a nice evening with the kid spreading icing and sprinkles on graham crackers in a bid to teach her the fundamentals of healthy eating. The gist of this opinion piece was basically something along the lines of how those evil women out there just love to shop and how the men, aka their husbands, are the real heroes of Christmas for dragging their weary and “once vibrant” (the author’s words, not mine) carcasses around after their wives as they shop, shop, shop and spend, spend, spend!
Pushing aside the multitude of groups of people that this article had the sheer potential to offend, this thrilling relic of patriarchal snobbery sent me down a ridiculous spiral of web sleuthing to figure out the identity of this crusty old white man that perpetrated this crime on journalism and this needless re-upping of outdated gender stereotypes. My wife and I plotted anger-filled dispatches to the newspaper, fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to troll the writer and countless other fashionable ways to throw our collective weight behind how much we suddenly hated this man and all of his batshittingly backwards thoughts on...everything.
And for as much fun as all of that would have been, it would only serve to launch another little missile of hate out into the world that would feel absolutely incredible in that first moment of action and then slowly rot inside me with each passing minute until it left me feeling empty excepting for that still-present rage that I felt after reading the initial article. I cringe at how much time I’ve spent directing my attention and my focus on minuscule problems that can’t possibly be solved by minuscule acts of revolution.
In the past decade or so, I’ve let too many of these sorts of distractions disrupt where I need my focus to be and allowed them to direct me down paths that I’ve had no intention of traveling. Unsolvable extended family issues, unwanted solicitations from the friends of Christmas past, the fact that a literal known felon and philanderer is sitting in the White House (when he bothers to show up); these diversions have only aided in severing who I really am from who I’ve allowed myself to be. For someone that used to have an extremely clear definition of myself, it’s incredibly disarming when the realization hits that that definition stops looking anything like who you actually are. I used to crow loudly about expectations I had for myself and laugh at anyone that tried to shoot them down. Now, more often that I want to admit, I’m the one that shoots down any creative plan that I have before it’s even begun to gestate.
I’m starting to post here again and truthfully, I have a really good idea of where I want all of this to go, but it’s unclear to me as I sit here today if I will actually allow myself to get anywhere near that place that I’m hoping to go. I didn’t sit down with the intention of writing about any of this and I think that’s probably the best possible first step that I can take.
And just like that, to the delight of almost nobody, the illustrious Company Pants is back. Starting things off with a post featuring my favorite albums of the year might not be the best or most traditional route to travel down, but I’ve ventured far past caring what other people hope or expect this particular site to be. I’ve got some interesting plans for what I want to do on here and I will be unleashing those over the next couple weeks leading into the new year. For now, let’s just lazily bask in what I consider to be the very best music released in two thousand eighteen.
(You can also listen to a sampler playlist I made on Spotify.)
Vessel is the kind of album that you’ll wait your entire life for. Crammed with songs that barely ever breach the two minute mark and yet still somehow all manage to smack you around emotionally, leaving permanent scars and a twisted story that you’re all too eager to share. This is songwriting in its most pure and unfiltered form and Greta Kline should be swiftly inducted into a pantheon of the world’s greatest living song crafters.
Listening to Occasional Din is an exercise in constantly attempting to suss out exactly what eras and what genres, Mr. Fernandez is pulling ideas from to formulate the overall feeling that defines this record. Ultimately, the songs that make up Occasional Din are unique unto themselves and owe to nobody except the mind of their brilliant creator as they are bathed in relaxing light and a much-needed introspection that is so often misplaced in these arenas of sound.
I spent so much time with this record over the past year, that it often felt like it was a record that had been released twenty years ago and I was just communing with an old, dear friend each time it was queued up. Inexplicably, Ought manage to tame the frenetic nature of their music in a way that only adds to the total vibrancy of their sound, rather than tamping it down and smothering it lifeless in an effort to appeal to the masses. Room Inside The World is a primal scream opera dedicated to the state of the world that’s hidden in the best post-punk record of 2018.
A ridiculous amount of the ink spilled about the debut record from Lindsey Jordan is that she recorded it while still a student in high school. In a modern age that’s fascinated with the accomplishments of people based on their tremendously young or horribly old age, what usually gets lost is the fact that age is a frustratingly pointless marker when it comes to artistic achievement. Lush is a stunning and sweeping document of Jordan’s life up to the point that she’s lived it so far and showcases her absolute monster ability to sing and create caterwauling melodies with six strings.
In the “old” days, Earl Sweatshirt’s first (involuntary) disappearance launched a nearly two year FREE EARL campaign that ultimately brought the rapper back home. His latest disappearance was self-inflicted and seems to have only sharpened his already phenomenal lyrical ability and expanded his idea of what hip hop can achieve stylistically. Some Rap Songs is a far more adventurous and a far more necessary collection of songs than its humble title implies.
I’m a more recent, but hopelessly devoted convert to the church of Parquet Courts, so I was absolutely floored the first time that I heard Andrew Savage stutter out the sentence, “If it stops, I’m…if it stops, I’m…if it stops, I’m having an unshakeable nightmare,” in the unflinchingly aggressive “Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience”. In fact, it might be my most cherished moment that occurred on any record in 2018. With Wide Awake!, Parquet Courts have taken the anger, frustration and inescapable feeling of dread that has drowned the past two years and channeled it into a rare combination of eloquent, intelligent wordplay over ecstatic and, at times, bombastic musicianship.
Even the laziest, dreamiest moments on the Forth Wanderer’s first proper full-length feel laced with heat and panic, almost as if they are in a rush to finish before they’ve even started. This self-titled masterpiece spends a way too fast half hour making you feel like you are reading the password protected notes of someone you’ve known your entire existence as you come to realize that maybe you don’t actually know a single thing about them.
If every generation has a voice, then I vote to pass that mantle faster than fuck to the brilliant mind behind gobbinjr, the ineffable Emma Wittmer. Her last EP, Vom Night did more than just get me through the worst moments of 2016, it was the soundtrack to my year. It’s follow-up, ocala wick is holy writ for anyone living, breathing and surviving in the often literal hellscape that is 2018. Wittmer’s determination to have her voice heard loudly amongst a patriarchal society that shuts her down at every possible moment should serve as a call to arms for those who have been pushed down to keep pushing forward and for those who have been orchestrating the destruction of society to watch their backs.
For a year that has been mostly shrouded in a dank and disturbing haze, kiss your frenemies arrived in the early part of May as a striking point of light amongst the darkness. Massive riffs, bop-bop harmonies, languid and liquid interludes, the shrinking space between anger and happiness and the disappointing reality of a life lived around social media all barrel full-force at anyone that dares put this brilliant record on.
In a perfect world, we would all strive to create something as complex as Liz Harris has put together with Grid Of Points. It’s a record that, at first, has the potential to feel as if it was built effortlessly and somewhat casually until you stop simply listening and start hearing the entirety of the world that she’s crafted and managed to contain within these reverb-soaked masterpieces. Grid Of Points is more than a collection of songs, it’s a reckoning on the state of art.
Is extreme introspection just low-level narcissism? Are panic attacks just self-induced stabs at attention? Is fame worth your soul? With The House, Aaron Maine has created an all at once furious and shockingly deep collection of songs that you can either dance your ass off to or completely break down along to; the choice is yours. “Country” is one of the most beautiful looks into escaping the pace of life ever written and “Find Me” might be the most joyful song about losing your shit in front of everyone.
Adrianne Lenker’s most recent record with Big Thief last year left me in a puddle of tears on a embarrassingly frequent number of occasions. Lenker’s return to her solo work, abysskiss, is no stranger to inspiring those same kinds of emotional expressions. The songs that make up abysskiss are dark and gorgeous beyond words and each tell a story about a life that almost seems too impossible for anyone to have struggled through, which only makes them more achingly haunting to listen to and appreciate for their beauty.
I connected immediately upon impact with Hovvdy’s Cranberry as it scratched a certain nostalgic itch that I wasn’t even aware existed inside of me. Without ever condescending to that sense of wistfulness they create, the duo behind Hovvdy have created a record that invites you in and smothers you with hugs as it leans in to gently whisper it’s stories in your ear.
I will be brutally honest: I’m not sure how I ended up here or how this record found its way into my life or amongst my favorite records of the year. I’ve generally ignored the massive body of work that mewithoutYou has created over their impressive time together for no reason other than a lack of time and an improper understanding of who they really are. This all changed with a casual suggestion to give [untitled] a listen. The songs that make up [untitled] function less as individual documents and thrive as one giant piece of art glued together by lyrical and musical strands. It’s an inspiring work of art and an undertaking to wholly breathe in.